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Acrylic and Perspex screens for desks what are the differences?

Acrylic and Perspex screens for desks what are the differences?

During 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, our everyday face to face encounters with people were, and continue to be, through acrylic or Perspex desk screens. These screens are referred to as ‘sneeze screen barriers’ and are seen as the most effective way to keep people safe from the potential transmission of Covid-19.

Perspex screen in office

But, acrylic and Perspex screens have been commonplace for several years because the material is translucent (see-through) so light passes through, making them a popular choice for companies who want to portray a fresh, modern dynamic. 

When interior designers and facility managers consider materials for office desk screens, floor-standing screens or room dividers, they have several choices. Traditionally these types of screens have been available in fabric, but they are also available in wood, acoustic fabric, polycarbonate and of course acrylic and Perspex. 

People ask about the benefits and properties of these materials, of which there are plenty! But, most people want to know the differences between an acrylic desk screen and a Perspex screen.

Before we investigate the differences, let’s look at why we use desk screens and what a desk screen or desk divider is.

What is a desk screen/desk divider?

When two people are working at their desks facing each other they often have a desktop dividing screen separating them. These desktop screens, or desk dividers are usually about 400mm high and come in different shapes and sizes to suit the workstation.

Desk Screens

What are the benefits of desk screens?


Desk screens provide privacy whilst creating a visual barrier from, wires, cables, computers and monitors. 


Fabric desk screens and acoustic desk screens reduce noise as the fabric and foam absorb the sound of speech, telephones ringing and keyboard tapping. 

Define and divide your workspace

If you have a desk screen in front of you and two shorter ones to your left and right, your personal effects will remain in your space and not drift over to your colleague’s desk and vice versa. This can help people feel more secure at work and limit unnecessary distractions. 

We have now understood the benefits of using desk screens in the workplace and know that they are available in a wide range of materials. 

Although acrylic and Perspex screens have always been popular, we would have never anticipated them being used as barriers against Covid – 19.

Covid 19 – The rise of the acrylic and Perspex screens 

During the Coronavirus pandemic, acrylic and Perspex screens were in high demand. Acrylic and Perspex screens were rebranded to define their purpose as Cough screens, Sneeze Screens, Hygiene screens, Social Distancing screens, Anti-Virus Screens, Protection screens. These screens reduced the risk of potential airborne germs from coughs and sneezes whilst still enabling visibility, so made people feel safer at work. 

Perspex Desk Top Screen

But what exactly are these screens made from and…

What are the differences between acrylic and Perspex Screens?

You may be pleased (or disappointed, if you were expecting a scientific-based answer) or even surprised, that Perspex® and acrylic are the same thing. Think Hoover vs Vacuum cleaner or more recently Dyson vs Vacuum cleaner.

Perspex® is a premium branded acrylic by Lucite International and is manufactured to the highest industry standards possible, earning an enviable reputation as the very best acrylic available. 

As for the science, Perspex® is a polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) acrylic sheet manufactured from a methacrylate monomer (MMA). 

Perspex and acrylic what's the difference?

Okay, so what is acrylic?

Acrylic is a transparent thermoplastic homopolymer. In other words, it’s a plastic – specifically, polymethyl (PMMA). Though it is often used in sheet form as an alternative to glass, it’s also used in a variety of other applications, across industries including point-of-purchase displays, windows, signage, LCD screens, medical devices, and office desk screens!

A little bit of history

Acrylic is older than you may think as it was first produced in 1928 and was brought to the market five years later by Rohm and Haas Company. Some of the first applications were installed during  WWII when it was used for submarine periscopes as well as aeroplane windows, turrets, and canopies. Airmen whose eyes were injured due to shards of broken acrylic fared much better than those affected by shards of shattered glass.

­Why is acrylic so popular?

One of the main reasons acrylic is so popular is that it is easy to fabricate and shape. When acrylic plastic is heated it becomes malleable and can be moulded into many shapes. As it cools down, it holds its formed shape, allowing it to be machined, drilled, or sawed just like wood. 

Perspex and acrylic what's the difference?

When acrylic is being shaped, the moulds or casts can be made from wood or plastic, which is very cost-effective for manufactures. Because acrylic is a thermoplastic, it can be moldable at a specific elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling. This means acrylic can be formed into virtually any shape.

The other advantages of Acrylic are:

Acrylic is 50% lighter than glass but much stronger.

Acrylic is highly transparent and available in a range of colours.

Acrylic is easy to maintain.

It is for these reasons that acrylic and Perspex® desk screens are commonplace within workplaces. Office screen manufactures can make acrylic and Perspex screens easily and quickly and once they find their way into the office, they can be used to divide up workspaces, even making use of the acrylic colour ranges to define different teams. 

Acrylic desk or a Perspex® desk screen is also easy to maintain compared to fabric desk screens because the surface is smooth to touch and lasts for a very long time about 450 years! 

Acrylic and Perspex screens make a safer choice for the workplace, to minimise the spread of Coronavirus. 

Demand for screens, of all types, soared during the pandemic and it’s probably fair to say that we are all familiar with, and have, a Perspex screen safeguarding us in the workplace now!


Although Acrylic and Perspex® screens have become the ‘new screen normal’ in recent years to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus, they should not only be seen as barriers from coughs and sneezes: 

We need to look to the future and realise the benefits of using acrylic and Perspex in the workplace, such as transparency (good for communication) colour ranges (for branding purposes), low maintenance and easy cleaning. 

So, remember that there are no real differences between acrylic desk screens and Perspex screens because Perspex is a branded name for acrylic. We often refer to brands as products because it is sometimes easier and is often the result of an excellent product! 

Here at Office Reality, we can supply businesses and organisations with acrylic and Perspex desk screens for a revamp or reopening. 

In response to Covid – 19, we have added many innovative screen solutions to our existing range of acrylic and Perspex screens

We can supply:

Freestanding Protection Screens, Sneeze Screens, Desk Protection Screens, Counter Protection Screens, Stay safe Hospitality Screens, Future Protect mobile glazed screens which are all manufactured to a high standard. 

Please get in touch if you would like any further information.

Posted by: Ben Hartley

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